• Kurtis Tatkenhorst

May 14- Boston Celtics win their 14th NBA Championship in 1981

1981- On this Day in Sports History, the Boston Celtics won their 14th NBA Championship. They did so by beating the Houston Rockets in Game 6 102-91. Larry Bird led the Celtics with 27 points and 13 rebounds while Cedric Maxwell added 19 points. For the Rockets, Robert Reid had 27 points and Moses Malone had 23 points and 16 rebounds in the loss.


The 1981 Boston Celtics finished the regular season in first place in the Eastern Conference with a 62-20 record which was tied for the best record in the NBA. Head Coach Bill Fitch had a super star in Larry Bird who was in his third year in the NBA. Bird averaged 21.2 points and 10.9 rebounds a game. Robert Parish, Cedric Maxwell, Tiny Archibald, and Kevin McHale also would all average at least 10 points a game that season.


After a first round bye, the Celtics swept the Chicago Bulls in the Conference Semifinals. They then faced the Philadelphia 76er’s, who were the defending Eastern Conference champions and tied with the Celtics for the best record in the league, in a tough Eastern Conference Finals matchup. The 76er’s, led by Julius Erving, jumped out to a 3-1 series lead forcing the Celtics to face elimination each of the next three games just to keep their NBA Title hopes alive. The Celtics were able to win Games 5 and 6 which forced a Game 7 where the winner would advance to the NBA Finals. In Game 7, the Celtics had to outscore the 76er’s by five in the fourth quarter in order to escape with a 91-90 victory and reach the NBA Finals for the first time since 1976.


Meanwhile, the Houston Rockets barely reached the playoffs as they were the 6th seed and the last seed to make it. They finished the regular season with a losing record of 40-42, which barely edged out the Golden State Warriors by one game for the last playoff spot. Despite finishing the regular season with a losing record, the Rockets, led by Moses Malone, upset the Los Angeles Lakers and then the San Antonio Spurs to reach the Western Conference Finals. They would then beat the Kansas City Kings in Game 5 to win the series 4-1 and reach the NBA Finals.


In the NBA Finals, Houston was able to knock off Boston in Game 2 and 4, but the Celtics won the rest. On this day in 1981, the Celtics clinched the NBA Championship with their win in Game 6. Boston’s Cedric Maxwell was named NBA Finals MVP as he led the Celtics in scoring with 17.7 points per game in the series. Larry Bird averaged 15.3 points, 15.3 rebounds, and 7.0 assists per game in the series as well. It was the Celtics first NBA Championship since 1976. Boston’s Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Nate Archibald, Robert Parish, Coach Bill Fitch and Houston’s Moses Malone and Calvin Murphy would all later be inducted into the NBA Hall of Fame.


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Sources:

“1981 NBA Finals - Rockets vs. Celtics.” Basketball Reference

“1980-81 NBA Season Summary.” Basketball Reference

Staff. “Season Review: 1980-81.” NBA.com, NBA, 23 Aug. 2017


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